Policy Summit: An Agenda for the Cape and Islands - Full Report

Read coverage of the Policy Summit in the Cape Cod Times  

 Living on the Cape and Islands

Strong communities are welcoming and equitable for all and rely on active citizens.

Facilitator: Jeffrey Soares, Economic Researcher


-       Julie Wake, Arts Foundation of Cape Cod

-       Rene King, YMCA of Cape Cod

-       Collin Mickle, Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & the Islands

-       Edye Nesmith, Cape Cod Council of Churches

Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket have strong traditions of being places of refuge for artists, immigrants, and people looking to start a new life. Understanding the importance of art, culture, and diversity in our communities is paramount to maintaining the vibrancy of the Cape and Islands.

This working group focused on the work being done to preserve and promote arts and culture on the Cape and Islands. It also highlighted different organizations that provide support to our immigrant communities, as well as organizations that seek to strengthen our communities through their services and volunteers.

Key Takeaways:

-       The tone was set with a line from a Maya Angelou poem “Nobody can make it out there alone.”

-       An overarching theme was the arts as central to living on the Cape, economically, educationally, as well as in terms of one’s identity or creating a means to reach out to others. 

-       The arts are an important part of the C & I economy.  In addition to adding to the culture that draws people to the C&I artists contribute to the economy in many ways.  Artists need places to live, studios to work in and places to sell their products.  All the activities contribute to our economy.

-       Organizations like the YMCA and the Cape Cod Council of Churches provide important programs for our communities.  They highlight the importance of volunteers in suppling and helping build our communities.  And, the Y has a program that partners with RISD that uses art to empower young people. 

-       Immigrants make up 6.8% of the population in Barnstable County.  The community is often underrepresented due to concerns of identify themselves.  The Community Action Committee offers legal and other services to the community.   Community support in the form of outreach and communicating to elected officials demonstrating support for the immigrant community is essential. 

Click here to see more from Living on the Cape and Islands.





Aging on the Cape and Islands

Our population is aging – meeting the needs of our older adults is critical.

Facilitator: Dave Schropfer, Representative for the Barnstable Human Rights Commission


-       Dr. Molly Perdue, PhD, Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod

-       Sheila McGuinness and David Carbone, Seashore Point

-       Dick Elkin, Nauset Neighbors & Village to Village Network

-       Richard Knowlton, Cape and Islands Emergency Medical Services System

The Cape and Islands district is the oldest in Massachusetts. Nearly one-third of the population of Barnstable County is over the age of 65, and that number is only predicted to increase over the next decade. Understanding the needs of our older adults is critical, and supporting the organizations that address those needs is crucial. 

This working group highlighted some of the organizations working to enhance the overall well-being of older adults on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket; and featured a discussion on how to address the needs of older adults in more rural areas.

Key Takeaways: 

-       The Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod is a non-profit organization devoted to supporting the 10,000 Cape Cod families, individuals, and caregivers living with Alzheimer’s and other Dementia-related illnesses.

  • Every service provided by The Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod is free.
  • There are Alzheimer’s support  groups in every town on Cape Cod, and 120 sites where counseling interventions can happen.
  • The Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod aims to bring visibility to a disease that often goes undetected.

-       Nauset Neighbors is an all-volunteer organization committed to helping seniors stay in their homes and remain active in our community for as long as possible.

  • As seniors age and can no longer drive or do small things around the house, it becomes hard to remain at home. Yet remaining at home as long as possible can be crucial for emotional and financial reasons.
  • From Harwich to Wellfleet, Nauset Neighbors has over 300 volunteers 
  • Nauset Neighbors is a part of the Village to Village network, whose aim is to provide support and exchange information about communities dealing with aging populations.

-       Cape and Islands Emergency Medical Services System serves as the liaison organization between the EMS providers in the Cape Cod area and the area hospital Medical Directors and the Massachusetts Department of Health – Office of Emergency Medical Services.  They are committed to the development of emergency medical care within the region and providing the best pre-hospital medical care.

-       The Residences at Seashore Point are the Outer Cape’s only full-service residential community. At The Residences, older adults are able to remain active and independent for as long as possible.

  • Seashore Point provides affordable year-round housing for older adults looking for innovative social, recreational, and cultural programming.
  • They have a professional rehab department, as well as a wellness staff and center.
  • It provides seniors with the health services they require, as well as fulfilling social engagement.

Click here to see more from Aging on the Cape and Islands.


 Serving on the Cape and Islands 

Residents of the Cape and Islands share a deep commitment to service, access to healthcare, and honoring those who have served.

Facilitator: Joe Gill, Veteran & SEIU 1199 Advocacy Organizer


-       Bill Flynn, Cape and Islands Emergency Medical Services System & retired Deputy Chief of Harwich Fire Department

-       Brigadier General (ret.) Anthony Schiavi, former Executive Director of Joint Base Cape Cod

-       Heidi Romans Nelson and Elyse Degroot, Duffy Health Center

Access to affordable and reliable healthcare is a right of all people. We must work together to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society receive the support and services they deserve.

This working group addressed the services currently available to veterans, people battling addiction, and the homeless. It highlighted groups currently working to provide these necessary services and discussed areas that need improvement.

Key Takeaways:

-       Like many on the C&I, vets struggle with affordable housing, jobs with livable wages and access to health care.

-       Access to veteran’s services can be a challenge for C&I vets as many services, including access to VA hospitals, are off-Cape.  Working to bring the services closer to the vets is a priority.

-       Many younger vets are not aware of the services available to them.  Identifying and reaching out to the vets is key. 

-       A tangible “to do” that is needed is an overall assessment of what C&I vets need and what would be most impactful.

-       The Dufy Health Center and other public health organizations look to prevent homelessness and support other at risk populations.  As with other groups, housing is an issue.

-       There is a serious threat to funding under ACA reform for public health centers.  Vigilance and problem solving as to how with is managed in Massachusetts is required.  Not only must additional funding be obtained, existing funding must be protected. 

-       EMTs provide essential services to our population.  The job is becoming more complex and training and certification is required.  Currently, the training facility is antiquated and needs to be updated to meet the on-going requirements. 

-       EMS providers work in support of all our residents when they are in crisis.  The EMTs are always there, always reliable; we need to provide on-going support and training as they do their important work. 

-       There are tangible solutions that you can do:

  • Learn CPR
  • Get involved in Vets services and reach out to newer veterans so they utilize the services available to them and their families
  • Support Duffy Health Centers in their charity drives; partner with another organization ins support of Duffy HC
  • Show-Up; volunteer for a town committee 

Click here to see more from Serving on the Cape and Islands.


Working on the Cape and Islands 

Job opportunities, available housing, and a strong workforce are critical to a sustainable economy.

Facilitator: Mark Forest, Former Chief of Staff to Congressman Delahunt & former aide to Congressman Studds 


-       Teresa Martin, Cape Eyes

-       Wendy Northcross, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

-       Ann Van Vleck, Cape Cod Young Professionals

-       Heather Harper, Cape Cod Commission

The C&I have a Travel/Tourism focused economy that needs to diversify in order to create a more sustainable, year-round economic base.  Infrastructure issues, such as affordable housing and transportation, need to be addressed if the economy is to grow.

The working group explored what needs to be done to create a more diverse economy that will lead to stability and growth.  The group looked at cultural issues, such as the perception the everyone is rich and no one works on the C&I as well as the perception that we are only a season economy.  The offered a variety of solutions and highlighted actions underway.  

Key Takeaways:

-       There is a need to diversify – both our economy and our housing:

  • On the economy through initiatives like the Blue Economy or through encouraging workplace alternatives such as working from home.
  • On housing, diversify to more of a life stage market.  For example, many elderly and young people share a desire for smaller units near amenities.             

-       The economy relies on seasonal workers, many of whom need H2B visas, which is becoming an increasing challenge to obtain, creating uncertainty for businesses.  Seasonal workers also need places to live in order to work.  This too is an on-going challenge.

-       For year-round workers, there are limited opportunity for younger professionals; without opportunity, they are leaving the region.  A more sustainable wage base is needed to improve pay within the service based economy.   The C&I also has two times the national average of self-employed workers.  We need to provide services that support their work. 

-       To develop the economy, we need to expand beyond travel/tourism and into more emerging industries, such as the Blue Economy.  A coordinated plan for growth is needed.

-        The transportation infrastructure, including getting on and off the C&I can be a struggle and this can limit economic growth.  It is important that a fix for the bridges remain on the agenda.  The lack of public transportation limits the mobility of workers. 

-       Housing, Housing, Housing.  The issue is central to working on the C&I and impacts every community and segment of the population.  The lack of affordable housing for year-round workers is limiting economic expansion and diversity.  

  • A more proactive approach including developing housing, workforce and land use planning is needed with a more regional approach at the forefront.
  • Rebranding, educating and marketing of what “affordable housing” means so that communities better understand the need and the solutions.
  • One proposal is to form an Affordable Housing Alliance of all the towns and housing trust groups in order to learn from each other and plan with each other. 
  • More flexibility in zoning and openness to affordable housing developments is required. 

Click here to see more from Working on the Cape and Islands.


 Preserving the Cape and Islands 

Stewardship of our fragile environment and action to mitigate climate change is crucial.

Facilitator: Suzanne Condon, Environmental Health Consultant and former Associate Commissioner of the Department of Public Health 


-       Mahesh Ramachandran, Cape Cod Commission

-       Maggie Downey, Cape Light Compact

-       David Agnew, Pilgrim Legislative Advocacy Coalition

Our region has a finite amount of natural resources, and we must preserve them. Stewardship of our fragile environment necessitates transitioning to more renewable sources of energy, protecting our water from harmful pollution, and addressing threats to our public safety.

This working group featured three organizations working to protect the environmental health and safety of the residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The group addressed issues of water quality, climate change, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, and other environmental and public health concerns.

Key Takeaways: 

-       Sustainability, protection of the natural resources and environmental health and safety were recurring themes.  It became clear that in the bigger picture how interwoven these themes are with housing and tourism, two issues critical to the continued success of the Cape and Islands. 

-       Water quality, largely related to pesticide use, insufficient waste water treatment and pollution will require an investment in water quality treatment to maintain the C&I landscape. 

-       Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station  poses a danger to the C&I based on geographic isolation.  There are funding concerns if the State must deal with spent fuel rods left on the site.

-       Solutions proposed included support for zoning reform, incentivizing sustainable energy sources and preventing pollution through local control. 

-       Lack of funding was raised for several areas including wildlife preservation, water testing, environmental monitoring, environmental education, and investment in alternative energy sources. 

 Click here to see more from Preserving the Cape and Islands.


 Raising a Family on the Cape and Islands 

Access to education and key services are critical to families on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

Facilitator: Marie Enochty, Brewster School Committee


-       Elizabeth Aldred, Cape Cod Children’s Place

-       Margeaux Weber, Barnstable School Committee

The number of young families choosing to build their lives on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket is declining. Understanding and meeting the needs of parents, students, and young children is paramount to building a sustainable and vibrant community.

This working group featured speakers from the Barnstable School Committee and Cape Cod Children’s Place. The discussion included how young families can afford to move to the Cape and Islands and how to provide quality early childhood education and family support services in rural areas. 

Key Takeaways:

-       We need to look at communities as a whole to understand how best to support our children and families. We cannot focus solely on the public school system. 

-       Everything is interconnected and interdependent. Thus, we need to think of creative policy solutions that will intersect many different areas and subjects. Because of the many layers and connections, we need to develop clear priorities to address from the local, state, and federal level. 

-       Families on Cape Cod need a resource center to meet their needs. Early childhood education is expensive and sparse – but families need the support. Especially in addressing the learning needs of children from 0-5 and beyond.

Click here to see more from Raising a Family on the Cape and Islands. 

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